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Tax Incentives: A New Recruitment and Retention Strategy for EMS Volunteers

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By Allison G.S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

Emergency medical services (EMS) agencies throughout the United States have experienced a number of problems with recruitment and retention in recent years. For some agencies, volunteers are the backbone of the agency, as many localities simply cannot afford paid staff.

In many cases throughout the country, recruitment and retention has become difficult to the point where some EMS agencies cannot remain open. For example, the volunteer rescue squad in Orange County, Virginia, had to permanently close their doors when the agency couldn't keep up with its obligations to the county.

Recruitment through Free Emergency Training

For many agencies, offering free training to their local residents has become an important way of retaining volunteers. Emergency training is expensive and it can be difficult for some people to obtain unless that training is connected to an agency. This recruitment method has been an excellent source of recruitment and retention.

Culpeper County Government Considering a Tax Incentive for EMS Volunteers

In Culpeper County, Virginia, the county government is currently considering a tax incentive of up to $600 for any individual who volunteers for the fire and rescue departments more than 144 hours a year. The idea was originally proposed by the Culpeper County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, an organization comprised of several volunteer fire and rescue organizations.

If the tax incentive legislation is passed by Culpeper County, it will have an interesting effect on recruitment and retention for the volunteer fire and rescue agencies. Not only is this a "thank you" from the county government, but it may very well prove to be an important incentive to entice volunteers.

Furthermore, the tax incentive may create some competition. Fire and rescue agencies in Culpeper County would be in a great position to only accept the highest quality of volunteers, which could strengthen their overall emergency management.

Public Policies Can Motivate EMS Volunteers

Public policies are an important piece of any fire and rescue agency's retention and recruitment strategies. They can significantly motivate people to join EMS and fire agencies or discourage volunteers. Considering the EMS staffing problems throughout the country, other agencies may find that a tax incentive such as the one being considered by Culpeper County would work equally well for them.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.